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HURT so good

Here’s a look inside one of the hardest ultramarathons in the country, right here on Oahu

Posted January 17, 2011 by Melissa Chang

The HURT 100 during the day. —Photo by Augusto Decastro

Did you know that one of the hardest ultramarathons in the country takes place right here on Oahu? Every January, the Hawaii Ultra Running Club (HURT) of Hawaii puts on the HURT 100, and athletes from all over the world try to gain entry. Since they limit the field to just 125 entries, hopeful runners can only get in through a lottery.

The course is five, 20-mile loops out in the wilderness of metro Honolulu — Manoa, Nuuanu, and Tantalus. The race starts at 6 a.m. on Saturday and ends at 6 p.m. on Sunday. Toward the end, there are time markers that the runners need to hit on Sunday in order to keep going: 80 miles by 11 a.m., 87 miles by 1:30 p.m., 92.5 miles by 3:30 p.m. If they don’t make it to these markers by the alloted time, they’re pulled out of the race. (At 6 p.m., when they closed and evacuated the finish line, there was still one runner out on the course. The “sweeper,” who sweeps the course for stragglers and removes trail markers, found him and brought him in at 7:20 p.m.)

Some runners, as they rush to get in by the 36-hour deadline, make it in just under the clock. Here’s a dramatic video of Mark Tanaka, the last official finisher for 2011, taken by @LARunr. After 100 miles, Tanaka probably couldn’t feel the fall anyway.

Here are just a few photos from the event to give you a taste of my experience as a spectator. You can also check out Augusto Decastro’s photos here:

HURT 100 2011 (1 of 38)

HURT 100 2011

I'm going to start at the end, with congratulations to the top overall 100-mile finishers, from left: Jeff Sanders, third place; Jason Loutitt, first place; and Paul Hopwood, second place.—Photo by Gary Robbins

I’ve learned a few things about these ultramarathons while volunteering over the years, but probably not nearly as much as the people who run them. One very significant thing to know is that most ultra runners tend to be older (maybe 35+ years) because of the mental endurance required. One runner explained that when you’re in your 20s, you haven’t gone through enough adversity in life yet to mentally prepare you for such a grueling run, which is why older runners dominate the field.

On that note, I didn’t realize until this year that many of these runners, old or not, have incredible stories. One guy is a cancer survivor. Another one was running with one arm (yes, I know you run with your legs). One girl out on the course, Frayed Laces, completed two Ironman races in the last year and had finished her PhD dissertation last week. On top of that, she has a super popular blog. I felt like a total underachiever! So of course I had to meet her:

If you want to get a better feel for what it’s like out on the course, check out this blog entry by Gary Robbins, HURT 2010′s winner. And remember, he’s the winner … can you imagine what it feels like for the rest of the runners?

By the way, congratulations to the women’s winner, Hannah Roberts (left) and the men’s winner, Jason Loutitt, as captured on the trail by Andrea Stout. For the complete results, click here.

I had a great time tweeting with @LARunr, @Gary_Robbins, and @BobMcallaster — make sure you check out our #HURT100 tweets before they’re archived. If you’d like to volunteer as a pacer or at an aid station next year, let me know!


You can read all of Melissa’s blogs at Follow Melissa on Twitter @Melissa808, on Foursquare as Melissa808, or email at

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  1. augusto_photo
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 2:04 am

    Great coverage, Melissa! It was also good to meet you IRL.

  2. aaronnamba
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 2:45 am

    Kind of a niche topic, but I appreciated it! I saw an Iolani XC shirt in there somewhere, that what I was doing a decade and a half ago! These days, I can’t do much more than a couple miles…

  3. nonstopmari
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 3:04 am

    exhausted just reading this. i’m such an underachiever. what kind of training does an ultramarathon like this take?

  4. Melissa808
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 7:36 am

    @augusto_photo Nice to meet you, too!

  5. Melissa808
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 7:37 am

    @aaronnamba I agree! I myself would never do an ultramarathon…heck I can barely do a regular one! But I’m fascinated by the people who do this.

  6. Melissa808
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 7:43 am

    @nonstopmari you gotta be the type to do marathon training (long distance) then make the upgrade to trail running. I can’t do trail running!

  7. RexVlcek
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 11:34 am

    I agree with Bob Melissa…great blog and interview. Thanks for all your help throughout the years.

  8. yuenhdz
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    OK, Melissa. When do we start training for this?

  9. harrycovair
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I never understood the mind/mentality set of an Ultra Runner / Ultra Marathoner. Just the weekly training for a Marathon takes up time and life away from family and friends. Doubling (or tripling) the training requires a strict mind set and a really disciplined lifestyle that most people would not likely give up.

    Maybe one should consider an intermediary run before attempting the 100 miler. Mau`i has the Run to the Sun which has consists of either a single runner or a relay team. 4 miles of flat running before running up Haleakala. Running uphill AND Oxygen Deprivation, but a fun run. (BTW I never did the RttS, but I did drive the van.)

    Kudo’s to the runners that even attempt this kind of trail running. Whether you finished or not you’re all winners.

    Great job on the blog, pics, and video.

  10. Melissa808
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    @RexVlcek Thanks, Rex, for all your hard work! See you running HURT next year!

  11. Melissa808
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    @yuenhdz bwahahaha. I don’t run trails, I’m such a scaredy cat!

  12. Melissa808
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 9:57 pm

    @harrycovair true, it takes a different kind of mind set to be an ultra runner. I’m totally fine with being an underachiever/marathoner! LOL. Thanks for checking out the blog, it took a loooong time to sift thru the photos and choose them!

  13. frayed_laces
    Posted January 17, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    Hi Melissa,
    Great coverage of the race, and excellent job on the interview! It was fun to see how loopy I was after the race. I’m going to embed it on my race report. Thanks for helping create a great memory of the race.

  14. Melissa808
    Posted January 18, 2011 at 7:25 am

    @frayed_laces Thanks, and congrats again! What an accomplishment!

  15. turkfontaine
    Posted January 18, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    Hawaii is such a Mecca for extreme endurance events. the HURT and the Molokai to Oahu swims and canoe races, the Eddie (is it on this week?) and then there is the weekday morning commute to the H1-H2 merge.

    i don’t do any kinds of -thons. i don’t even run anymore, but my time in HI every year puts me in better shape by the time i go back to the ML because there is so much opportunity for physical activity. i think this is going to be the year i trade my CA DL for a HI DL. “sell the house, sell the car, sell the kids. i’m never coming back.”

    congrats to all of the lonely long distance runners who must surely reach some kind of psychedelic state out there in the dark woods, out there somewhere around the 75mile mark.

  16. Melissa808
    Posted January 19, 2011 at 2:01 am

    @turkfontaine yup, the Eddie Aikau is on this week! and you’ve reminded me that I should walk to the store more often if I don’t have a huge load to bring back.

  17. gary_robbins
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 10:08 am

    It was a pleasure meeting you out there last weekend! Thanks for the mention in your write up of everything.

  18. Melissa808
    Posted January 20, 2011 at 11:36 am

    @gary_robbins nice to meet you, too!

  19. jlieu
    Posted January 26, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    OMG…. I dont think I can ever complain about a measely 26.2 miles LOL!!! WOW… that is some deication! I do agree that running is not onyl phsyical but mostly mental! I think if there were a big pot of tater tots at the end- I would be in 1st place!

  20. Melissa808
    Posted January 27, 2011 at 5:22 am

    @jlieu we decided to make Paradise Park volunteering a tweetup next year!


About Melissa Chang

Melissa has been blogging regularly since 2007 and has more than 25 years’ experience in marketing and public relations. She is currently an independent marketing consultant, specializing in social media. 

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